Three days after Blake Strode made history by capturing the inaugural US Open National Playoff – Men’s Championship and earning a wild card into next month’s US Open Qualifying Tournament, the women took to the court on Wednesday for the first round of the Women’s Championship, which is taking place alongside the Bank of the West Classic, an Olympus US Open Series event at the Taube Family Tennis Center in Palo Alto, Calif.
Of the 16 women who remain from the 373 competitors who entered in one of 16 Sectional Qualifying Tournaments nationwide, eight competed today in their first-round matches, as they attempted to match Strode’s accomplishment and earn at least one match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The day began with top-seed Alina Jidkova, 33, of Boca Raton, Fla., taking on Syracuse University standout Eleanor Peters, 22, of Washington, D.C. Jidkova, who made her US Open debut in 2000 and competed in the main draw of the US Open each year from 2002-07, had too much experience on this day for the younger Peters and cruised to a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
In Friday’s quarterfinals, Jidkova will face Kaitlyn Christian, 18, of Orange, Calif. Christian, who will enroll at the University of Southern California in a few months, got her first taste of the courts where she’ll take on future rival Stanford University, winning the day’s longest match by defeating Samantha Powers, 21, of Rome, Ga., 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-2.
Third on court was No. 3 seed Brittany Augustine, 18, of Carson, Calif., facing 16-year-old Belinda Niu of Portland, Ore. Niu, the 2008 USTA Girls’ 16s National Clay Court Champion, started fast, going up an early break in the first set, but Augustine eventually found the groove that helped her reach the semifinals of the 2009 USTA Pro Circuit $10,000 event in Brownsville, Texas, and rolled to a 6-4, 6-1, victory.
Wednesday’s final match featured the draw’s two youngest competitors, as 15-year-old Evangeline Repic of Oakville, Canada, took on fellow 15-year-old Jan Abaza of Deerfield Beach, Fla., who won the pre-qualifying event at the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour stop in Ponte Vedra Beach earlier this year. Repic, who competed for Canada in the 2009 ITF World Junior Tennis Competition (14-and-under), dominated early, winning the first set and jumping to a 3-0 lead in the second, before Abaza battled back to force a tiebreak. Repic quickly recovered, however, and defeated Abaza, 6-3, 7-6 (2).
The first round of the US Open National Playoffs – Women’s Championship will continue on Thursday with four more matches, as eight more women set out to realize their dream of competing at the US Open. Among the competitors who will see action are No. 2 Alexandra Mueller, who won her first pro title at the age of 15, No. 4 seed Courtney Dolehide, who will play collegiately at UCLA next year, and Romana Tedjakusuma, who competed in the main draw of the 1994 US Open and at 34 is the oldest player in the draw.
US Open National Playoffs – Women’s Championship
Taube Family Tennis Center at Stanford University
Palo Alto, Calif.
Day 1 First-Round Results:
No. 1 Alina Jidkova def. Eleanor Peters 6-4, 6-3
Kaitlyn Christian def. Samantha Powers 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-2
No. 3 Brittany Augustine def. Belinda Niu 6-4, 6-1
Evangeline Repic def. Jan Abaza 6-3, 7-6 (2)